GEORGE Michael was working on this documentary about his extraordinary life and career right up to the point when he tragically died on Christmas Day last year, and it’s that tragedy which casts such a substantial shadow over what should have been a straightforward celebration of a marvellous talent.
Instead George Michael: Freedom becomes a very moving obituary to the pop star, serving as both a reminder of his frequently brilliant songwriting, but also the struggles, both personal and professional, which fed their way into his music.
Beginning with the carefree years of Wham!, the story really hit its stride with Michael’s solo career and the enormous success of the Faith album.
It’s perhaps easy to forget that at this point Michael was right up there with the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince, and that he made a very good pop star indeed.
Less good was his ability to deal with the fame and much of Freedom deals with the fall out of being “the modern-day Elvis”, according to a surprisingly astute Liam Gallagher.
Gallagher is one of the many stars persuaded to give their views on Michael and his typically amusing anecdotes bring a much-needed sense of levity to proceedings given the sadness that envelopes the whole affair.
Ricky Gervais is great too and it’s a treat to be reminded of George’s hilarious cameo in Extras.
From the music world Mary J Blige speaks warmly about Michael’s influence on American RnB and the struggles he faced as a white artist, while no less than Stevie Wonder tells the best joke of the programme, which I won’t spoil for you.
The less said about the execrable James Corden the better though, as the under-fire comedian does his usual attempt at making out how he is best friends with someone far more talented than him.
Through it all Michael is a strangely mysterious presence.
We see brief glimpses of a figure hunched over a typewriter and it’s Michael’s voice which narrates the story but all of the interviews are from the archives and there is no direct talking to the camera.
It serves to add yet another layer to the man’s enigma and we’re left with the sense that perhaps we really only hear his true feelings through his songs. And what songs they are. Rest in peace George.